Quechee prosecutor among three appointed as Vermont judges

By SARAH MEARHOFF

VtDigger

Published: 12-21-2021 9:28 PM

Gov. Phil Scott on Monday filled three of four vacant judgeships on the Vermont Superior Court. If confirmed by the Senate, Elizabeth Novotny, of Jericho, Vt., Heather Gray, of Quechee, and Justin Jiron, of Underhill, Vt., would join the bench.

Scott chose his appointees from a list of nominees provided by the state’s Judicial Nominating Board, which includes legislators, representatives of the governor and members of the Vermont Bar Association. Once confirmed, the judges serve six-year terms, then face a retention decision by the Legislature.

“There are few responsibilities more important than governors making judicial appointments,” Scott said Monday in a written statement.

“The people who are entrusted with interpreting the law and upholding justice are tasked with an enormous duty,” he said. “People’s lives and livelihoods are often in their hands, and it is critical that judges have integrity, honesty, compassion and impartiality.”

Novotny, Gray and Jiron fit that bill, he said.

Monday’s appointments would fill vacancies left by former judges Mary Teachout, Robert Bent and Howard VanBenthuysen. As of Monday, according to Scott spokesperson Jason Maulucci, one Superior Court vacancy remained, and it was going through the board’s nomination process.

The state bench has faced criticism in the past for a lack of gender equity — including from Scott himself. More than two years ago, the governor accused the Judicial Nominating Board of gender bias, an accusation one board member at the time called “bullshit.”

If Novotny, Gray and Jiron are confirmed, according to Maulucci, 12 women and 23 men will be serving as Superior Court judges. Since Scott became governor in January 2017, he has nominated five men and five women to the court, Maulucci said.

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Scott’s office provided brief biographies of the judicial nominees:

■Novotny has law experience in the public and private sectors as deputy state’s attorney for Chittenden County, counsel for the state departments of public safety and financial regulation, and as an associate at the law firm Perry and Schmucker. Currently, Novotny is general counsel to the Mosaic Learning Center, an independent school for students with developmental disabilities. She is a former president of the Vermont Bar Association and attended the University of Vermont and Suffolk University Law School.

■Gray has been a traffic safety resource prosecutor with the Vermont Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs since September 2017. Before that, she was a deputy state’s attorney in Franklin County for nine years and an associate attorney practicing civil and family law at Clark Werner & Flynn in Burlington. Gray has been an instructor and trainer at the Vermont Police Academy. She obtained a degree in paralegal studies from Notre Dame College and completed a four-year clerkship to become an attorney in 2005.

■Jiron has been a prosecutor in the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office since 2003 and has been chief deputy state’s attorney since 2016. He has prosecuted a variety of crimes in the past 18 years but since 2006 has been the primary prosecutor for drug sale cases in the area in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Burlington. Earlier, Jiron spent three years in private practice with the law firm of McPhillips, Fitzgerald and Cullum in Glens Falls, New York. He attended the University of Vermont and Albany Law School and in between served in the U.S. Army infantry. He was honorably discharged in 1993.

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